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What is a Champagne Cake?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are several different types of champagne cake, and not all actually contain the sparkling wine. In some recipes, it's a white cake with champagne added to give the cake an extra spark or bubble. Many people are familiar with the pink champagne cake, which is a white layer cake filled with either Bavarian cream or rum custard, and frosted with pink butter cream icing.

It is hard to trace the origins of this cake, but it is typically associated with retail bakeries, and probably derives from other cakes that would have used a Bavarian cream or custard filling. Occasionally, people will find one filled with whipped cream as opposed to the more common fillings, but this largely depends on the bakery preparing the cake.

Most variants of champagne cake, whether pink or white, begin with a white layer cake. In bakeries, of course, a customer can order sheet cakes for large numbers of people hungry for the dessert, but the typical presentation is a round cake of two or three layers.

Typically, the cake body should be light and frothy, although it is hard to duplicate effervescence in cake form. This may be why some bakers turned to rum flavored custard, to give the cake a somewhat alcoholic taste. People who like the taste of rum, but not the alcoholic content, should know that most commercial custards are made with rum flavoring. Like vanilla extract, the rum flavoring has a small amount of alcohol, but it is relatively small as compared to adding real rum.

For the purist, the rum custard typically used in this cake should contain real rum. In addition, the cake may receive a small coating of rum prior to adding the custard in a way that is similar to the many Italian cakes that are soaked or at least sprinkled with rum. As an alternative to custard, rum flavored whipping cream, or Bavarian cream — custard with whipped cream folded in — can produce a very fluffy filling.

Typically, the cake is topped with curled shavings of white chocolate, or in the case of pink champagne cake, white chocolate that has been dyed pink. This is added after the cake is completely frosted with butter cream icing.

It's also possible to make a chocolate champagne cake, which typically has the same filling options, but is made with a light chocolate cake instead of a white base. The cake body tends to be heavy on egg whites so it is both fluffy and moist. It's often topped with regular chocolate shavings.

Champagne cake appears to be making something of a comeback in recent years. It has become quite popular as a wedding cake and adapts well for this purpose. The cake often matches well with a traditional dry champagne.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By ysmina — On Jan 20, 2013

For those who want to make an easy champagne cake, go for cupcakes instead.

Just make a yellow cake batter and a butter cream icing with a few drops of red food coloring for a pink color. If you want to add champagne, pink champagne is better because it's sweeter. But don't overdo the champagne. I personally skip that part and use gourmet oil in champagne flavor instead.

By serenesurface — On Jan 20, 2013

I can't have alcohol for religious reasons. Where can I get alcohol-free champagne flavoring for this cake?

I want to make a champagne birthday cake for my friend but I want to be able to have a piece too.

By SarahGen — On Jan 19, 2013

@anon30915-- Wow that sounds amazing. Can you elaborate on the ganache? Did you use real champagne or the flavoring?

I made a heart shaped pink champagne cake a couple of years ago for Valentines day. It was actually a very simple cake, and it did have real champagne, both in the batter and in the frosting.

My hubby liked it a lot. I had the cake lit with chilled champagne ready on the table when he came home and he was so happy!

I would love to try a chocolate champagne cake sometime. I love chocolate cake, I'm sure it will be good.

By Glasshouse — On Oct 04, 2010

I used to work for a restaurant that did catering events, and our champagne wedding cake was simply white cake mix that substituted champagne for the water. The cake mix was not your average Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker cake mix, but I always felt a little guilty about not making such expensive cakes from scratch. Our decorator was professionally trained and would decorate the cakes, but the cooks would actually mix and bake the cakes.

If I were spending hundreds or thousands on a cake, I think I would want something that was unique to the bakery. The whole point of owning a bakery is to highlight your baking skills, and make a profit while doing it. It is almost like cheating when you sell wedding cakes and you cannot make the batter from scratch.

By anon30915 — On Apr 26, 2009

Love chocolate, champagne and cake...what a combo! I found a great recipe, super simple and super yummy. It simply layers chocolate cake, chocolate champagne ganache and champagne soaked grapes..so good!

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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